News Industry Profile Loving Pets



Industry Profile: Loving Pets
13th August 2015

By Sandra Pearce

Loving Pets started selling just last September, and demand has taken off – it’s seeing sales of around 20,000 of its Bella Bowls into Europe each month. We visit to learn what’s so special about these pet bowls, and what else this fledging company has up its sleeve

It is generally not advisable to turn up for an interview with two black eyes and a broken nose. But when you have competed at every England Rugby youth level, it kinda’ goes with the territory and is exactly the predicament Jonathan Moyce found himself in. “Needless to say, I didn’t get that job,” he says, revealing that his scrum days are now long gone – but not as a result of that disastrous interview – and that he does not miss hobbling into work on crutches one bit. “Sundays were always spent in pain, recuperating from Saturday matches.”

Today the 28-year-old has a much, much safer job (much to his fiancée’s delight) as he spearheads the UK and Europe side of Loving Pets, a pet product manufacturing company with a strong reputation for its bowls.

Loving Pets was set up in America a decade ago by his uncle, Eric Abbey, who came up with the idea for a ‘super premium’ pet bowl. (Eric, incidentally, was already the fourth generation in the pet industry: his grandfather, Lou Dalwin, was one of the founding members of APPMA, which is now the American Pet Products Association.)

The Bella Bowl has so many things pet owners are looking for: it is made of stainless steel, which can resist bacteria unlike plastic offerings; it features a removable non-slip rubber base, so the bowl can be put into the dishwasher; and the bowls have plastic outers, so can follow trends with new colours, patterns and designs. “Many bowls are melamine or plastic, but scratches in plastic can harbour bacteria, potentially causing issues for pets,” said Jonathan.

He recalls how one day while visiting his uncle in New Jersey, Jonathan (who by then was a food safety consultant with the British Standards Institute) was stunned when Eric offered him the brand for the UK and Europe. It was too good an opportunity to pass, and he jumped, having seen how popular the Bella Bowls were in the US – they are in every major supermarket and pet store in the US, selling at the rate of half a million units each month.

Indeed, production had hit such figures that Eric ended up buying the stainless steel factory in India, which now manufactures solely for Loving Pets. Over the years Eric had invested millions of dollars in research, machinery and technology into the business, and now apart from bowls and accessories, it also manufactures its own extensive range of natural treats from its factory in the US.

So Jonathan took a year to fully research the relevant markets and made a further trip to America, learning about the products, how they’re made, and different software and inventory management systems. The UK and Europe operation, based in Rye, England, was officially launched in August 2014, with Eric and Jonathan agreeing to drip feed the top-selling 250 skus, selected from the 1,000 or so total list in America.

Top dog, naturally, are the Bella bowls – attitudes have changed, says Jonathan, and a pet bowl is no longer ‘just a bowl’. “Customers keep coming to us and saying they’d like bowls in different colours to match different rooms, like the living room or their girl’s room. Pet bowls are no longer kept only in the kitchen; owners are now more likely to keep bowls in every room, and want to match the décor. So we keep bringing out more colours and designs,” he explained.

There’s a Bella Bowl to suit every mood, colour and temperament, from the evocative Coastal Aqua Sea to the wine-lover’s Merlot delight, the valentine special Hearts offering and the seasoned World Traveler to the pirate-themed Bad to the Bone. The Robusto has an unusual claim to fame and is marketed as ‘nearly indestructible’. Almost tongue in cheek, Eric drove his Hummer (yes, those massive 4x4s) over one, which emerged unscathed. “Our products are all slightly different,” remarks Jonathan.

Look at the Gobble Stopper, the alternative to feeding bowls designed to stop dogs wolfing down their meals, which can look bulky and unsightly. Instead, the Gobble Stopper is a standalone suction device that fits into any bowl and does the same job. It’s been selling in America for about five years now, and is also doing incredibly well.

Almost a year on from its official launch, and Loving Pets has outgrown its current premises in Rye, and Jonathan is hoping to expand across the road. “We get two containers here every month, but we ship direct to customers a lot,” he explains.

Which is probably a good idea as Loving Pets is each month seeing sales of around 20,000 Bella Bowls into Europe; 6,000 or so Bella dog and fish mats; and a whopping 13,800 Robusto bowls. He has secured contracts with distributors in countries including Germany, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Italy, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. “We’re getting an average of two new distributors a month in Europe,” he revealed.

Touch down
The range of products being brought into the UK and European markets is also growing, and treats are high on the agenda. Every treat is stringently tested by dogs in the US, he says. For example, every new treat can be offered to 200 dogs several times over the course of two days. The target is for the dogs to choose that treat over an established recognised seller – 95% of the time! “If the 95% target is not met, we do not make the treat,” he said.

Loving Pets owns its own processing facility in the US, and uses pure meat sourced from North America for its all-natural treats. For the moment, Jonathan is focussing on the Natural Value sausage range, and is importing its duck and chicken recipes. He is also bringing out the Puffsters range of natural air-puffed snacks. Looking much like a Quaver crisp, these contain no by-products or fillers, and have chicken as a main flavour with either an apple, banana, sweet potato or cranberry option. “We were eating Puffsters on stand at the Global pet show.”

Retailers can also choose from the It’s Purely Natural range of chicken and beef treats and Waggles Chicken Skins. He is also eyeing up a biscuits selection and assessing the buffalo range, which would be unique to the UK. “We’re doing it slowly, one line at a time,” he said.

For now, it is very much a family affair. Dad (who used to own a construction company) handles imports, while his sister is in charge of shipping all local orders. At the moment, there is one sales person for the UK side, and two in Europe. Leads come from exhibiting at international pet trade shows, and some large American multi-nationals are opening doors to their UK/European counterparts.

For the moment, Loving Pets does not have its own UK website. There really isn’t a need for this, he explains, as the American website averages 35 million views each month (though work is in progress to have a UK button), and the US Facebook page has over 17,400 likes. He does, however, have a social media presence via Twitter and Instagram, the latter of which has 7,000 followers.

Though Jonathan only started selling in September 2014, sales have been incredibly promising, he says. This year, Loving Pets will shift just short of £1 million worth of products (the American side is currently turning over US$60 million a year). He then reveals that the plan is to build a factory here to
manufacture treats here as well. “It’s all very exciting,” he said.

Yet their core business is firmly the independent pet retailer. Retailers can take advantage of the company’s five-foot-high Bella Bowl stands, which are sold at cost, create an eye-catching display, and take up little floor space. “Taking this on, retailers do not have to discontinue lines or make space. It can just go on the end of a gondola,” he explained. “For the moment we are putting everything we have back into the business. We have brands that we know work, as that work has already been done for us.”